Bouncing Souls/Irving Plaza/December 17, 2016
Raised in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Kienlen played in a cover band in the mid to late 1980s, and Greg Attonito occasionally sang a few songs with the band. Eventually the time came for the musicians to get serious about their music, so the high school students started writing original songs in Attonito’s dad’s attic. In 1989, a supportive music-loving teacher contributed $120 to cover expenses, and the Bouncing Souls debuted live in Bernardsville, New Jersey. The band adapted its name from a shoe company’s slogan promoting “bouncing soles.” The band members later moved to a nearby college town, New Brunswick, which had a reputation for supporting underground music. George Rebelo replaced the band’s previous drummer in 2013. The quartet released its 10th studio album, Simplicity, on July 29, 2016.
The Bouncing Souls headlined three consecutive nights at Irving Plaza, playing a different set list each night. On the final night tonight, the band performed 27 original songs and one cover (Avoid One Thing’s “Lean on Sheena”); three of the self-written songs were from the new album, but all the rest of the songs were at least 10 years old. By and large, the set was comprised of songs drawn of the same spirit: fast, lighthearted compositions, constructed equally for moshing and chanting along. The musicians briefly slowed the tempo for breathers like “Night Train” and “Old School,” but otherwise the band led a steady militaristic charge with basic rock and roll drills. Attonito’s vocals rallied, Steinkopf’s stinging guitar lines sizzled and the rhythm section’s powerdrive support made for a lean and clean punk rock framework. These simplistic structures made many of the songs sound perhaps too similar, but nevertheless gave the fans in the audience something to bounce their souls.
Los Lobos/City Winery/December 19, 2016
Several Mexican American high school students ran parallel courses before banding in 1973 in East Los Angeles, California. Vocalist/guitarist/accordionist David Hidalgo and drummer Louie Pérez formed a garage band, guitarist/mandolin player Cesar Rosas had his own group, and bassist and guitarron player Conrad Lozano played in a power trio. Once united, they called themselves Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles (The Wolves of East Los Angeles) before shortening the name to Los Lobos. The four musicians grew tired of playing American Top 40 songs, however, and began incorporating the traditional Mexican sounds they knew as children. In the early 1980s, Los Lobos added rock to its sound and recruited Steve Berlin of the Blasters on keyboards and woodwinds. Los Lobos were already a Grammy Award-winning band by the time they gained international stardom in 1987 with a cover version of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.” Los Lobos has included drummer Enrique González since 2013. Los Lobos’ most recent album is 2015’s Gates of Gold.
Once again playing three consecutive nights at City Winery, Los Lobos played solid sets influenced by rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music including cumbia, bolero and norteño. Hidalgo and Rosas sang richly, and the marriage of diverse influences filled the room. On the first night, Los Lobos invited on stage vocalist Syd Straw and Dark Star Orchestra guitarist Jeff Mattson. On the second night, School of Rock‘s 12-year-old guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer jammed with the band. Tonight, the third night, Los Lobos played 15 mostly rocking songs from seven albums before inviting several guests on stage. Guitarist Marc Ribot joined the band for “La venganza de los pelados” and “Georgia Slop.” Jackie Greene sang and played sizzling lead guitar on the Allman Brothers Band’s “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” and a medley of The Crickets’ “Not Fade Away” and the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha.” Wilco guitarist Nels Cline came onstage halfway through “Bertha” and stayed for the encore of “La Bamba” and The Leaves’ “Hey Joe.” The effect was that patrons at the tightly packed venue made space for dancing to the joy-filled rhythms.
Ronnie Spector/City Winery/December 20, 2016
New York City native Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett made her vocal debut at the Apollo at age 11. Later, she and her sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin, Nedra Talley, became a teen vocal trio called the Darling Sisters, later known as The Ronettes. The Ronettes released a few singles without success until they connected with producer Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” studio work. Ronnie adopted Spector’s name professionally to become Ronnie Spector and later married him. The Ronettes had a string of hits during the early to mid–1960s, but the hits ended shortly after the British Invasion, the Spectors went on hiatus in 1966, and The Ronettes folded in 1967. Ronnie Spector periodically surfaced to sing on albums by Jimi Hendrix, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Eddie Money, the Misfits and the Raveonettes and recorded solo albums. The original Ronettes reunited only for the vocal trio’s 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Spector’s fifth and most recent album, English Heart, her first album of new material in a decade, was released on April 8, 2016. Spector now lives near Danbury, Connecticut.
In 1988, Spector began performing at the Ronnie Spector’s Christmas Party, a seasonal staple at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. In the summer of 2012, Spector debuted her one-woman biographical multi-media show. Her most recent composite, Best Christmas Party Ever, named after her 2010 five-song Christmas EP, Best Christmas Ever, was a combination of both her traditional Christmas show and a reflection of select portions of her career, augmented by vintage slides and videos. Presented over two nights at City Winery, the show began with Spector covering Gene Autry’s “Frosty the Snowman,” moved through several Christmas songs and cover tunes, most of The Ronettes hits, spoken word and visually-aided reminiscences, and ended with Spector dancing in a Santa suit. Now 73 years old, Spector maintains a distinctive voice, but lacks her youthful range; she did the best with what she had, and what she had was a guided musical tour of an era a half century ago. She sang covers of songs by Frankie Lymon, the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Bee Gees, and the Carpenters; she updated her songbook with songs by Johnny Thunders and Amy Winehouse; it was those Ronettes songs, however, that enchanted her audience. Was it the best Christmas ever? Probably not, but it was a sparkle in the tinsel.
Jim Jones & Steve Conte/The Bowery Electric/December 22, 2016
Based out of London, England, Jim Jones led the Jim Jones Revue garage rock and roll revival band from 2007 to 2014. In 2015, Jones formed the similar Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind, taking the band name from a book of social psychology. He has now joined New York City-based Steve Conte, who played lead guitar for the second generation New York Dolls and post-Hanoi Rocks Michael Monroe, and most recently has been leading his own band. The new band, Jim Jones & Steve Conte with the Soul Resistance, consists of Jones, Conte, and Conte’s arsenal of side musicians: his brother John Conte on upright bass, Brian Delaney on drums, and Craig Dreyer on saxophones and keyboards.
Headlining at The Bowery Electric, Jim Jones & Steve Conte with the Soul Resistance performed a set of 18 obscure rock and roll, rockabilly and blues covers with a flash of funk and punk. These covers included vintage songs by the Coasters, the Sonics, Gene Vincent, and Little Richard, but then escalated through the decades to include songs by T. Rex, the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls and the Cramps. Jones’ deep vocals were forebodingly ominous, and Steve Conte’s guitar leads shimmered and simmered. For a few songs, the band was accompanied by blues harpist Dennis Gruenling, whose album Steve Conte produced. There is no word on whether or not this band will stay together and write new songs, but for now Jim Jones & Steve Conte with the Soul Resistance is head-deep in a dark, grimy rock and roll that harkens authentically to the past and speaks promisingly for the future.